The Silver Fleece - Robert Collis

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The Silver Fleece - Robert Collis

by PaulHP on Thu Dec 07, 2017 12:33 pm

Found this book recently, it is the pre-WW2 autobiography written by Doctor William Robert Fitzgerald Collis.


He was born in Dublin on 16th February 1900. He played rugby for Rugby School, Cambridge Blue 1919-1920, Yale University, King's College Hospital, Harlequins, Surrey and London Irish. He was capped for Ireland on seven occasions, playing against France, Wales and New Zealand in 1924; France, England and Scotland in 1925, and France in 1926. His father William Stuart Collis was also capped for Ireland in 1884 against Wales.

He was one of the first Doctor's to arrive at Belsen concentration camp at the end of WW2, and adopted two children he found there. Between 1957 to 1970 he worked in numerous University Hospital's in Nigeria. He returned to Ireland to live in 1970, leaving Ireland for short periods to work in a leper colony in India.

Whilst working at St. Brendan's School-Clinic in Sandymount, he meet Christie Brown, and encouraged him to become a writer.

He died on 25th May 1975.

Anyway, this is what he wrote about his time playing for London Irish:

Worst of all, however, my athletic activities were regarded by everybody with the gravest suspicion, for in spite of having been away in America for the previous two seasons and being over thirty I took up "rugger" again on returning to London, and on Saturdays I used to disappear from my laboratory as early as possible and go and play for the London Irish. I did this simply because I loved playing "rugger", particularly for the London Irish, whom I captained for several seasons. they were composed of a group of impecunious, unpretentious, and gay young Irishmen. They had not the manners nor the mode of speech of the Harlequins; few of their members could claim a public-school training, but they played with an abandon and joy of battle unknown to the other more famous London clubs.

Once I played a great match on a Wednesday, having told the director that I was at the Royal Society of Medicine. A few days before the manager of Surrey had rung me up and asked me to captain the county against Hampshire, who were the best southern team that year. I refused. He pressed me again, he was persisitent.

"All right, if you let me select the side", I replied at last. So it settled and I put five of the London-Irish Club, whose ground had once been in Surrey, into the team. We beat Hampshire by seventeen points, I playing under the assumed name of Robert and being described in the Press as one of the lesser known Harlequins.
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Re: The Silver Fleece - Robert Collis

by gabriel on Tue Dec 19, 2017 10:21 pm

That is a great find. What a fine and honourable life he lived.
I particularly liked the line where he describes why he liked London Irish so much; "They had not the manners nor the mode of speech of the Harlequins". Indeed.
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